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Single payer health care an issue in the NY governor's race

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

Single payer health care for New York has become an issue in the race for governor. Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon says if she’s elected, she’d enact single payer for New York. Not all of her opponents think that’s a good idea. 

Nixon wants New York to adopt a health care system that would bypass insurance companies and expand existing government-funded health care for seniors to all New Yorkers. She spoke to supporters recently in Albany.

“We can have a New York with a single payer Medicare for all system,” said Nixon, as the crowd applauded.

In a video released by her campaign, she says her mother’s ordeal with breast cancer, when Nixon was a teenager, helped shape her view.

“When I was 13, my Mom found a lump in her breast that she rightly suspected was cancerous,” Nixon says in the video.

She says her mother, who was unemployed and without health insurance, got a job with health benefits, then waited a month to go to the doctor, so that she could not be disqualified for care because she had a pre-existing condition

“After four weeks she went to the doctor, and she had to act surprised when he pointed out the lump,” Nixon said.

Nixon says her mother had to feign surprise when the doctor discovered the lump. Her mom received treatment and recovered.

The single-payer measure, known as the New York Health Act, has been approved several times in the state Assembly but has stalled in the Senate. Nixon blames her opponent in the Democratic primary for governor, incumbent Andrew Cuomo, for the bill’s failure. Cuomo, until this past spring, backed a group of breakaway Democrats in the State Senate who helped Republicans keep control of the chamber.

The RAND Corporation released a cost analysis study of the plan, and found that it would lower costs for patients and providers, and would save the health care system in the state $15 billion dollars over the next twelve years. But, it would require nearly $140 billion dollars in new tax revenue by 2022 to make up for the loss of health insurance premiums and co pays to the health care system. That’s one and a half times more than the state currently collects in revenue.

It would also require the Trump Administration to grant a waiver to New York to set up the plan.

Governor Cuomo has expressed support in the past for the idea of a single payer system, saying on WNYC in September of 2017 that it is an “exciting possibility”.

After the RAND study was released, Cuomo expressed concerns about the potential cost of the program, but says he’ll discuss it with the legislature.

Lately, Cuomo’s been taking steps to preserve protections established under  the federal Affordable Care Act, into New York law. He spoke before a gathering of  health care workers, where he announced that his admisntration rejected rate hikes requested by health insurance companies who provide insurance through the state’s exchange.  

“We are going to do it by codifying the Affordable Care Act in New York State law and New York State regulations. We have already started, we banned insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing illnesses so that is done. We required all insurance companies to cover the 10 essential benefits laid out in the Affordable Care Act.” Cuomo said on July 30th. “ We mandated insurance companies to end all copays for breast cancer screenings and to increase access. And we mandated a woman's right to contraceptive care, that's in the law.”

The ACA, also known as  Obamacare, has been largely successful in New York. The state’s health care exchange provides insurance for one fifth of New Yorkers. Since it began, the rate of uninsured New Yorkers has been cut in half, from 10% to 5% according to the state Health Department.

Whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary, they will face Republican Marc Molinaro in the November elections. Molinaro, concerned about the costs of enacting single payer health care, says if the legislature passed a plan, he would veto it.

“New Yorkers cannot afford an additional $92 billion dollar tax, and have a government run health care where choice is eliminated, where  private insurers are no longer allowed,” Molinaro said. “The state of New York and the governor can’t run the subway system in the City. I don’t think it’s safe or fair to anyone to put New York State in charge of health care.”

Molinaro says he’ll release his own health care plan later in the campaign. He says he backs access to quality health insurance and health care, but he says that system has to include choice and competition.

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